by
The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the circuit court ruling that Defendant's erroneous sentences were void ab initio, holding that the Court lacked jurisdiction to consider Defendant's motion to vacate his sentences. Defendant was convicted on Alford pleas to several offenses, including four counts of using a firearm in the commission of a felony. Defendant later filed a motion to vacate three of the four sentences imposed upon him, arguing that those sentences were void ab initio for being shorter than the statutorily-prescribed five-year minimum. The circuit court granted Defendant's motion to vacate his sentences and reopened the relevant criminal cases for further proceedings. The Supreme Court vacated the circuit court's judgment, holding that sentences below the statutory minimum are not void ab initio but only voidable, and that, pursuant to Rule 1:1, the court lacked jurisdiction to consider Defendant's motion to vacate his sentences. View "Commonwealth v. Watson" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court ruling that Defendant lacked standing to move to vacate the sentences of other felons as void ab initio, holding that Defendant lacked standing and that there was no reason to set aside the circuit court's judgment sua sponte. Defendant was convicted on Alford pleas to several offenses, including four counts of using a firearm in the commission of a felony. Defendant later moved to vacate as void thirty sentences imposed by the court upon twelve felons for violations of Va. Code 18.2-53.1, including three of the four sentences imposed upon him, arguing that each of the challenged sentences was void ab initial for being shorter than the statutorily-prescribed five-year minimum. The circuit court dismissed the case, ruling that a person must establish standing even when challenging a judgment as void ab initio. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the circuit court correctly ruled that Defendant lacked standing to challenge the other felons' sentences; and (2) this Court declines to declare the other felons' sentences void sua sponte. View "Watson v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the trial court's denial of Defendant's motion to suppress and affirming Defendant's convictions, holding that that trial court did not err in denying Defendant's motion to suppress. Defendant was convicted of first degree murder and robbery and sentenced to life imprisonment. Defendant appealed the denial of his motion to suppress evidence obtained as a result of a police interrogation, arguing that his constitutional rights under Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966), and its progeny were denied because the interrogation took place under circumstances requiring Miranda warnings prior to questioning and that the warnings he was given were constitutionally insufficient. The court of appeals affirmed the convictions, holding that Defendant was effectively advised under Miranda. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the trial court properly found that no Miranda warnings were required; and (2) the warnings given to Defendant were a fully effective equivalent of the warnings required by Miranda. View "Spinner v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court dismissing a school board's disciplinary proceedings against S.C., a high school student, with prejudice, holding that the circuit court misapplied the governing legal standards and misinterpreted the factual record of the disciplinary proceedings. The Fairfax County School Board disciplined S.C. for nonconsensual, sexual touching of three students at school. The circuit court dismissed the disciplinary proceedings, finding that the school board's decision was arbitrary, in violation of S.C.'s due process rights. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that, applying the "intensely practical" principles of due process applicable to school disciplinary proceedings, nothing in the record suggested that the school board acted arbitrarily in violation of S.C.'s due process rights. View "Fairfax County School Board v. S.C." on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the circuit court in this action, holding that the circuit court properly denied a motion to dismiss based on the doctrine of forum non conveniens but erred in dismissing the case based on forum selection clauses. RMBS Recovery Holdings I, LLC and others (collectively, Funds) filed suit against HSBC Bank USA, National Association (HSBC) asserting that HSBC served as an indenture trustee of three trusts in which the Funds had invested and that the trusts were filled with defective mortgage loans. Based on HSBC's failure to act to have sponsors of the trusts repurchase the deficient loans or to file suit against the sponsors, the Funds claimed breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, and other causes of action. The circuit court denied HSBC's motion to dismiss for forum non conveniens but granted HSBC's motion to dismiss based upon forum selection clauses in confidentiality and indemnification agreements between the parties. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding that HSBC's delay in asserting the forum selection clauses, while actively continuing litigation, resulted in a waiver of the right to rely upon that contractual provision. View "RMBS Recovery Holdings I, LLC v. HSBC Bank USA, N.A." on Justia Law

by
In this insurance coverage dispute, the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court ruling in favor of Doswell Truck Stop, LLC (DTS) on DTS's declaratory judgment action against James River Insurance Company and entered final judgment declaring that an auto exclusion precluded coverage of James Smith's injuries under the policy at issue, holding that the trial court erred in ruling in favor of DTS. Smith filed a personal injury lawsuit against DTS for injuries he allegedly suffered as a result of a tire explosion that occurred when DTS was repairing a tire on Smith's tractor-trailer. DTS filed an insurance claim with James River, which had issued a commercial general liability policy to DTS. James River denied coverage on the basis that DTS's claim was precluded by the auto exclusion. DTS then filed this action seeking a determination of whether the policy covered Smith's injury. The circuit court ruled in favor of DTS. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the circuit court erred determining that the auto exclusion was ambiguous with respect to the meaning of "maintenance" of an auto; and (2) the circuit court erred in ruling that an independent basis existed for coverage under the policy. View "James River Insurance Co. v. Doswell Truck Stop, LLC" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court reversed and vacated the decisions of the court of appeals reversing Defendant's conviction for criminal solicitation of a sixteen-year-old female high school student (A.L.) using a communications system in violation of Va. Code 18.2-374.3(D) and entered final judgment reinstating Defendant's conviction, holding that the court of appeals erred in reversing and vacating Defendant's conviction. At issue on appeal was whether the evidence was sufficient to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that Defendant's communications with A.L., when viewed in the overall context of his relationship with A.L., constituted a violation of section 18.2-374.3(D). The Supreme Court concluded that it was, holding that the court of appeals erred in finding that the evidence adduced at trial, and the reasonable inferences that the fact-finder could draw therefrom, was insufficient to support Defendant's conviction for violating section 18.2-374.3(D). View "Commonwealth v. Murgia" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals affirming the judgment of the circuit court refusing to set aside Defendant's guilty plea, holding that the court of appeals did not abuse its discretion in denying Defendant's motion to withdraw her guilty plea. Defendant pled guilty to petit larceny. Before the circuit court entered the final sentencing order, Defendant filed a motion to withdraw her guilty plea. The circuit court denied the motion and entered the final sentencing order. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the "manifest injustice" standard governs a motion to withdraw a guilty plea made after sentence was pronounced but before the sentencing order was entered; and (2) the grounds Defendant advanced to withdraw her guilty plea did not warrant vacating the guilty plea under the post-sentencing "manifest injustice" standard. View "Brown v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court in refusing to declare a party a subsurety to a loan obligation, concluding that a purchase option contract was enforceable, and declining to explain the meaning of its final order upon request of a party, holding that the circuit court did not err. On appeal, Appellant argued that the circuit court erred in refusing to declare her a subsurety and that the circuit court failed to cite authority or make findings of fact to support its decision regarding the enforceability of the option. Appellant also argued that the circuit court erred in refusing to clarify in its final orders that it was not ruling on Appellant's potential future contribution claim. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court (1) did not abuse its discretion in refusing to declare Appellant a subsurety; (2) was within its discretion to award specific performance of the terms of the option; and (3) did not err in declining to clarify its final orders regarding its effect on a future contribution claim. View "Callison v. Glick" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals affirming the judgment of the circuit court holding that the juvenile and domestic relations district court (JDR court) had no jurisdiction to modify an award of child support, holding that the JDR court had jurisdiction to enter the order. After Spear and Nawara Omary were divorced by an order of the circuit court. Later, thee Department of Social Services, Division of Child Support Enforcement filed a motion in the JDR court to modify the child support order. The JDR granted the motion. Omary appealed, arguing that the JDR court did not have jurisdiction to enter the order. The circuit court agreed and vacated the order. Spear appealed, arguing that the JDR court did have jurisdiction because he had previously withdrawn an appeal from the JDR court to the circuit court, and therefore, remand happened automatically by operation of law. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) Va. Code 16.1-106.1(F), by operation of law, effects an automatic remand whenever a circuit court enters an order noting the appellant's withdrawal of an appeal from the JDR court; and (2) therefore, the circuit court, not the JDR court, had jurisdiction to modify the child support order. View "Spear v. Omary" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law